The off-season is always an exciting time for dynasty owners. This goes double if your league also has a devy aspect. Between depth-chart shuffling, recruiting season, and spring ball, there is a lot going on in the college football world.
This comes with the disclaimer reiterating fantasy football is an inexact science. This is exacerbated when you throw college talent into the mix. Many guys not on this list are sure to breakout and become notable NFL prospects. But these are in my estimation the individuals with the most next level potential.
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10 – WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan Wolverines
A silly athlete who toyed with high school defenders, Donovan Peoples-Jones is already enrolled at Michigan and could easily assume number one duties for a team whose wide receiver group was decimated by the departures of Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson. Despite my obstinate reticence which often leaves me passing on freshman for more established talent, I’m all in on DPJ and his combination of physical maturity and compete level could lead to him being a nearly untouchable asset in devy leagues at this time next year. There are not many warts here, and the early opportunity should do wonders for his overall value, enough so I have him snuck him into the top ten.
9 – RB L.J. Scott, Michigan State Spartans
One of the few bright spots for a Michigan State program which has seen its disastrous 2016 campaign spill over into the offseason, L.J. Scott built on a promising freshman season with an ever better sophomore campaign. Perhaps most encouragingly, he was able to carry a sluggish (75th in total offense) offense, most notably keeping the Spartans competitive against Ohio State. A rugged runner who excels at the point of contact, Scott made strides athletically from year one to year two and while he will never have elite burst or long speed, he’s got ample athleticism to shame defenders at the second level. With soft hands and an insatiable desire to pick up extra yards, I’m bullish on Scott as a lead back at the NFL level and potential star if his game matures as much as it has already during his career in East Lansing.
8 – WR Courtland Sutton, Southern Methodist Mustangs
The jewel of Chad Morris’ rebuild at Southern Methodist, Courtland Sutton quickly became a devy darling shortly after capping an extremely productive redshirt freshmen season and then expanded his profile with a strong 2016. At 6’4” and 215 pounds, Sutton has the in-air acrobatics you’d like to see from someone with his size and he seldom loses contested situations against physically overmatched defensive backs.
While not a burner, he has plenty of speed for his size, though separation is going to be a lingering question until we see him add additional explosive qualities or refine technique in the intermediate game. Some of those issues could be directly linked to his relative lack of experience at the position, though I feel he has a few more question marks than is popularly believed. There’s no question Sutton is an enticing prospect with excellent value; I’m just not ready to anoint him as the top receiver for 2018.
7 – WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina Gamecocks
What were you doing at the age of 17? Bryan Edwards was settling in as one of the SEC’s best receivers despite his youth and significant shuffling under center. Long, lean and with a strong yet malleable frame, the rising sophomore checks every box physically and succeeding in the SEC as a true freshman who was not even eligible to vote in 2016 takes excellent mental toughness as well.
Edwards can play the big man’s game and bully defenders while making tough catches in traffic and he can also play the finesse game and leave defenders grasping at air off the line of scrimmage. A young player having so few holes is a rare find, and his value is poised to skyrocket as both he and Jake Bentley have a year of promising play under their belt. He has the makings of a true alpha receiver and I have no problem paying a premium price.
6 – WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Pick any clichéd small receiver superlative for Richie James, and he fits. But he is much more than a gimmick piece. James gains separation with ease and plays full throttle; he’s fearless over the middle of the field and runs after the catch as though he is escaping a fire. He plays with the type of swagger I adore and will not back down from any challenge on the football field. Many are going to be turned off by his small stature, but I view him much more in the dynamic Brandin Cooks mold as opposed to the Tavon Austin ornamental piece. If all else fails, James completed 85.7 of his passes in 2016 with a 11.43 YPA. He could be a quarterback upgrade for the Jets.
5 – WR James Washington, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Despite the wide receiver eyesore of number twenty-eight on his back, James Washington is one of the nation’s more gifted receivers and his easy speed and prodigious body control make him the alpha in Oklahoma State’s deep receiving pecking order. Aggressive receivers are a theme within this top ten and it is a trait Washington shows in spades. Despite lacking a towering build, Washington should have no issues creating separation and I view him as a number one receiver at the next level and not merely the deep threat many have pegged him as.
4 – WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State Sun Devils
One of my many swings and misses in this life is N’Keal Harry, whom I had little interest in during 2016 drafts. Despite his recruiting profile, I had him outside of the top ten incoming receivers and ended up with zero stock. My already tattered reputation took yet another hit but at least I have learned from the error of my ways. For a jumbo receiver, he is incredibly dangerous after the catch and uses subtle movements to embarrass defenders. He’s got incredibly strong hands and uses his catch radius to make spectacular plays. If you’re not on the west coast and willing to stay up late, Arizona State’s offense is must-see television and Harry’s their best devy prospect.
3 – RB Cam Akers, Florida State Seminoles
Given I previously mentioned I normally value collegiate production and pedigree early in drafts, it is a bit of an outlier to see Cam Akers high. But I just cannot help myself with his skill-set and picture perfect build. A supreme athlete with the frame to handle plenty of abuse, Akers nonetheless slides off tackles and runs with a savvy beyond his years. He’s well-positioned to be in the Derrius Guice/Saquon Barkley stratosphere of value next year, making him a great add early despite his youth.
2 – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions
There’s no need to get cute here. If you were ranking these players in tiers, there would be the top two and then realistically empty tiers until you get down to the next set of players. Saquon Barkley leaves you wanting for little and appears to have a top-notch work ethic to boot. I believe you could make a strong argument to take him in the first round if you included all dynasty players, both currently in the NFL as well as college. His value figures to be astronomical at this point next year.
1 – RB Derrius Guice, LSU Tigers
After giving such a glowing review of Barkley, it is shocking to not have him number one. Such is life when you’re competing with Derrius Guice. Guice takes workmanlike to the next level; he was hospitalized for going too hard in a workout prior to his freshman year. He’s a bull in a china shop runner who treats the well-being of defenders with little regard. Despite minimal receiving production, he’s a plus receiver; he won the Army All-American Bowl MVP as a receiver and looks natural wherever you line him up. I can’t give you a great reason to prefer Guice to Barkley or vice versa. Just enjoy the talent we have on our hands.